Climate change ‘supercharged’ US hurricane

17th May 2018

Web floodinghouston istock 841445032

Related Topics

Related tags

  • Global ,
  • Flood


Hannah French

Unusually hot waters across the Gulf of Mexico helped “supercharge” Hurricane Harvey before it caused widespread flooding across Texas in the second half of last year.

That is according to a study led by researchers at the National Center for Atmospheric Research (NCAR), finding that the gulf’s waters were warmer than any other time on record.

This fuelled the hurricane with vast stores of moisture, which later resulted in record-level precipitation levels and the costliest tropical cyclone to hit the US – inflicting $125bn (£93bn) in damage.

"We show, for the first time, that the volume of rain over land corresponds to the amount of water evaporated from the unusually warm ocean,” NCAR senior scientist, Kevin Trenberth, said.

“As climate change continues to heat the oceans, we can expect more supercharged storms like Harvey – its clear that oceans play a critical role.”

The study appears in the Earth’s Future journal and was funded by the US Department of Energy and the National Science Foundation.

It comes after researchers at North Carolina State University forecast that the 2018 Atlantic hurricane season will be significantly more active than the long-term average.

The university’s professor of marine, earth and atmospheric sciences, Lian Xie, said this year’s season should see 14 to 18 tropical storms and hurricanes forming in the Atlantic basin.

That is more than the average of 11 storms recorded annually since 1950, with Xie predicting one or two major hurricanes to form between 1 June and 30 November this year.

The forecasts are based on more than 100 years of historical data on Atlantic Ocean hurricane positions and intensity, as well as other variables including weather patterns and sea-surface temperatures.

Trenberth said supercharged hurricanes as a result of climate change were a clear threat, but that society is not adequately planning for the impact of these storms.

“I believe there is a need to increase resilience with better building codes, flood protection, and water management, and we need to prepare for contingencies, including planning evacuation routes and how to deal with power cuts,” he added.

Image credit: iStock


Subscribe to IEMA's newsletters to receive timely articles, expert opinions, event announcements, and much more, directly in your inbox.

Transform articles

SBTi clarifies that ‘no change has been made’ to its stance on offsetting

The Science Based Targets initiative (SBTi) has issued a statement clarifying that no changes have been made to its stance on offsetting scope 3 emissions following a backlash.

16th April 2024

Read more

While there is no silver bullet for tackling climate change and social injustice, there is one controversial solution: the abolition of the super-rich. Chris Seekings explains more

4th April 2024

Read more

One of the world’s most influential management thinkers, Andrew Winston sees many reasons for hope as pessimism looms large in sustainability. Huw Morris reports

4th April 2024

Read more

Alex Veitch from the British Chambers of Commerce and IEMA’s Ben Goodwin discuss with Chris Seekings how to unlock the potential of UK businesses

4th April 2024

Read more

Regulatory gaps between the EU and UK are beginning to appear, warns Neil Howe in this edition’s environmental legislation round-up

4th April 2024

Read more

Five of the latest books on the environment and sustainability

3rd April 2024

Read more

Ben Goodwin reflects on policy, practice and advocacy over the past year

2nd April 2024

Read more

In 2020, IEMA and the Institute and Faculty of Actuaries (IFoA) jointly wrote and published A User Guide to Climate-Related Financial Disclosures. This has now been updated to include three key developments in the field.

2nd April 2024

Read more

Media enquires

Looking for an expert to speak at an event or comment on an item in the news?

Find an expert

IEMA Cookie Notice

Clicking the ‘Accept all’ button means you are accepting analytics and third-party cookies. Our website uses necessary cookies which are required in order to make our website work. In addition to these, we use analytics and third-party cookies to optimise site functionality and give you the best possible experience. To control which cookies are set, click ‘Settings’. To learn more about cookies, how we use them on our website and how to change your cookie settings please view our cookie policy.

Manage cookie settings

Our use of cookies

You can learn more detailed information in our cookie policy.

Some cookies are essential, but non-essential cookies help us to improve the experience on our site by providing insights into how the site is being used. To maintain privacy management, this relies on cookie identifiers. Resetting or deleting your browser cookies will reset these preferences.

Essential cookies

These are cookies that are required for the operation of our website. They include, for example, cookies that enable you to log into secure areas of our website.

Analytics cookies

These cookies allow us to recognise and count the number of visitors to our website and to see how visitors move around our website when they are using it. This helps us to improve the way our website works.

Advertising cookies

These cookies allow us to tailor advertising to you based on your interests. If you do not accept these cookies, you will still see adverts, but these will be more generic.

Save and close